May
14th 2009
Just in case you thought that tenure at Harvard and a prominent role in government oversight would mean that you were taken seriously…

Posted under: American history, class, Gender, wankers

Think again!  (That is, if you think that the U.S. government and publicly subsidized banking system should work for the little people instead of for the banksters.  I’m sure Larry Summers is taken to be a very serious person.)  Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand–not so much.  Lambert at Corrente was all over this last weekend, and this morning TalkLeft posted a brief explanation and a link to an NPR interview with Warren in which she is lectured by Adam Davidson, who has zero credentials in law, government, economics, or banking that I can find.  Warren, on the other hand, has a CV as long as your leg–but that doesn’t matter!  She still gets a lecture from a man who asked her for an interview.  From the TalkLeft synopsis:

Davidson accuses Warren of stepping beyond her bailout watchdog role to advocate for her “pet issues” (Davidson isn’t specific about what Warren’s “pet issues” are but presumably he is referring to Warren’s advocacy for consumers in a number of areas from credit cards to mortgages).

When Warren points out that the financial crisis will “not be over until the American family begins to recover” and that the financial crisis does not “exist independently” from problems experienced by American families (skyrocketing foreclosure rates, high debt levels on credit cards), Davidson sarcastically interjects “that’s your crisis.”

My favorite part is when Davidson informs her quite patronizingly that she is all alone, and that no “serious thinkers” agree with her (from Lambert’s partial transcript): 

DAVIDSON: The American families are not — These issues of crucial, the essential need for credit intermediation are as close to accepted principles among every serious thinker on this topic. The view that the American family, that you hold very powerfully, is fully under assault and that there is — and we can get into that — that is not accepted broad wisdom. I talk to a lot a lot a lot of left, right, center, neutral economists [and] you are the only person I’ve talked to in a year of covering this crisis who has a view that we have two equally acute crises: a financial crisis and a household debt crisis that is equally acute in the same kind of way. I literally don’t know who else I can talk to support that view. I literally don’t know anyone other than you who has that view, and you are the person [snicker] who went to Congress to oversee it and you are presenting a very, very narrow view to the American people.

ELIZABETH WARREN: I’m sorry. That is not a narrow view. What you are saying is that it is the broad view to think only about trying to save the banks [Davidson sputters] and say Hey! the American economy will recover at some point and we’ll worry about the families [Davidson talking over]. I think that is the narrow view and I think I have the broad view. The broad view is that these two things are connected to each other. And the notion that you can save the banking system while the American economy goes down the tubes is just foolish.

Sometimes I wake up and feel like it’s 2002 all over again.  “Everyone agrees that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction!  No serious people think we shouldn’t invade Iraq!”  Never mind that Iraq didn’t attack us on 9/11/2001, and never mind that Saudis were in the majority among the hijackers.  Thanks, serious thinkers!  How about if instead of Adam Davidson’s idea of serious thinkers running the show, can we please have journalists and government officials who are looking for good solutions to real problems, instead of bad solutions to fake problems?  Please?

15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Just in case you thought that tenure at Harvard and a prominent role in government oversight would mean that you were taken seriously…”

  1. thefrogprincess on 14 May 2009 at 7:38 am #

    What’s killing me is that in the clip I’m listening to (where this interview is excerpted and then commented on by Davidson and some other guy) is that after she says that notion is “foolish”, Davidson remarks to his colleague that it got heated and she called him foolish. As though he didn’t call her an unserious thinker.

    I’ve listened to several interviews with Elizabeth Warren in my time abroad and there’s no better mixture of rigor and good ol’ common sense out there than what comes from her. But nobody wants to listen to the knowledgeable, capable, and serious law professor with the southern accent when they can listen to that twerp.

  2. Susan on 14 May 2009 at 8:07 am #

    I think this somehow connects to the “lessons for girls”. Not only does she get angry with intelligence and rigor, but at the end Davidson asks, “Can we still be friends?” Why should she want to be “friends” with him? And she’s really nice.

    I think what they object to is that choosing Warren means that an economist is not in charge, and therefore the discussion goes outside the inner circle.

  3. Historiann on 14 May 2009 at 8:57 am #

    Susan–I had the same thought exactly about how Davidson pushed her to make HIM feel better and reassure him that they’re still “friends”–as though (as thefrogprincess points out) he didn’t insult her through the interview. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t talk to MY friends that way. And only the occasional family member, but then I have to apologize!)

    I guess Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini won’t take Davidson’s calls, which is why he imagines that Warren is “all alone.” This may be a lesson for progressive economists–the banksters are very organized about lobbying and cozying up to media tools like Davidson.

  4. GayProf on 14 May 2009 at 9:24 am #

    I had previously seen Warren on a number of interview shows. She always struck me as one of the most reasonable people actually involved in trying to fix this mess. One thinks she might have been a really great treasury secretary (and I bet she always paid her taxes, too).

  5. Historiann on 14 May 2009 at 9:40 am #

    But she’s so unserious! Surely you know that serious people avoid paying taxes, GayProf. You’re probably completely unserious yourself.

  6. Indyanna on 14 May 2009 at 11:04 am #

    So how come this one didn t ge posted under Wankers as well? Has that worthy club reached its Fire Marshall limit, or are we just ratcheting up the threshhold for admission there? Every article I read says the big banks are just cringing for the time when a wave of consumer credit card defaults knocks over the tentative recovery from the foreclosure tsunami. I m pretty much all in cash now, myself, but at least not keeping it in the pillowcases. Yet.

  7. Mamie on 14 May 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Amazing. Here are my favorite moments:
    1. When they introduce her as “famous” for being on “Fresh Air.”
    2. When they get all huffy about how she is not doing “what she was hired to do.” Given her scholarly and public record, those who hired her knew exactly what she would do–and that’s why they hired her. Duh.
    3. When they went on and on about all the “well-respected” men who should have had her job, and who were “smart,” “smart,” “smart”–as if many of those “smart” men had not failed utterly, for years, to grasp the underlying weakness of the economy.
    4. When they lament the absence of “senior statesMEN” on the panel.

    Gosh, darn it. The “narrow,” “partisan” girls have broken into the clubhouse. Where will the “unbiased” “statesmen” play now?

  8. Historiann on 14 May 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Indyanna–sorry about the oversight of the “wankers” tage. Davidson has definitely earned a place in the wanker hall of fame. I’ll make the fix now.

    Mamie, good points. I keep thinking about how it was the women at Enron who blew the whistle, and about that woman FBI agent in Minneapolis who was the only person on to the plans for 9/11/01 (I forget her name.) But those are two good examples from earlier in this decade in which it’s clear that being excluded from the “boys’ club” may give people a perspective that is clearer because it’s not infested with groupthink or fears of ratting out one’s golf buddies.

    Too bad that the women couldn’t get listened too until it was too late, in both of those cases.

  9. Professor Zero on 14 May 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    The 2002 analogy is very apt.

    The fact is that no serious person would disagree with Warren, that is to say, disagree with the idea that her point of view is the most reality based starting point from which to begin thinking about these issues.

    I know this from reading the business/financial/economy pages in foreign newspapers, various countries, a lot, as I have always done.

    There are always Chicago School and neoliberal types who think like Davidson, but that really is the point of view of the banks and the financiers, who are interested in their own bottom lines. Only in the U.S. do people commonly actually BELIEVE this stuff, take it as scientific knowledge, non ideological, etc. Elsewhere you can get (some) people to believe it for short periods of time but not usually.

  10. koshembos on 14 May 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Tenure at Harvard may or may not make you a serious person. There are plenty examples for both. Elizabeth Warren is a major force intellectually, socially and morally. The fact that an NPR reporter thinks that the crisis is about the banks and not about the people is a strike against NPR.

  11. Je Suis Partie au Texas « Professor Zero on 15 May 2009 at 12:25 am #

    [...] And when I was sixteen and blonde and wrinkle free, I was more tolerant than I am now of people who told me that since I was from California I had no right to opine on politics elsewhere, because one knows that people will say such things to girls. When I was older, they would not presume to lecture in the same way, I thought, unaware of this. [...]

  12. vjs on 15 May 2009 at 9:18 am #

    Coleen Rowley was the FBI agent. Sherron Watkins was the Enron accountant. I keep a short list of people who, if I ever meet them, I want to shake their hand and say thank-you. Elizabeth Warren is another.

  13. Emma on 15 May 2009 at 10:16 am #

    It’s why HOLC and single-payer health care are off the table: they were championed by the ever unserious Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren is a distinguished member of a club that grows larger every day under President Obama: women who can’t be serious!

  14. Historiann on 15 May 2009 at 10:23 am #

    Emma–to quote John McEnroe:

    YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!

    (Srsly?)

    If it weren’t for the rueful laughter on this blog, we’d all have to go on antidepressants, wouldn’t we? (vjs, thanks for the reminder of the women’s names.)

  15. redzils on 21 May 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    I listened to that Planet Money podcast the other day, and immediately found myself thinking of the recent post here (which I am badly paraphrasing) where you pointed out that someone saying “any everyone else thinks you are a bitch [wrong] too” is a lazy and abusive argument. Thanks for helping me see it right up front!

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